Wow, what a year it's been! It's hard to imagine that it was just 8 months ago I created a Facebook event and invited a bunch of people to join me at the Capitol to talk to our lawmakers about the dire situation in which we found ourselves. That event exceed my wildest expectations and it was clear that the public was thirsty for way to be involved, so we held another event, and then another, and then another. Since April, we've mobilized thousands of Oklahomans - most of them just regular folks who, like me, had never done anything political in their lives. We've worked hard to create opportunities for people to engage with their government in meaningful ways. We've fostered conversations between the public and their legislators wherever we can - at the Capitol, on social media, at restaurants, and even in bars. And that was just the first year!
Where does that leave us for 2017, you ask? Well, we've been busy making plans and putting things into motion. Here's a quick preview of what we have scheduled right now, and we will be rolling out more content every week for the next several months:
Staying true to our roots, we will be holding "Capitol Day" every month while the legislature is in session where people can come meet with their legislators and get some information and training from us.
We're also going to have a "Capitol Crawl" each month as well (usually the same days that we're at the Capitol), where representatives, senators, and city leaders come out of their offices and interact with the public in places where we "regular folks" feel more comfortable - namely the restaurants, coffee shops, and bars of our communities.
In the final days of the legislative session, it's almost inevitable that the House and/or Senate will have some long floor debates that extend into late night hours, sometimes as late as 9pm, 10pm, or even midnight. During these late night sessions, the legislature often debates very important bills, including the state budget, and they occur long after the public and news crews have gone home. So, this year we're going to make sure that they know we're paying attention, regardless of what time it is, and we're going to gather outside the chambers and continue to have face-to-face conversations with legislators. Can't make it that late? You can still participate by communicating with your legislators via social media while they're in session.
Feeling unprepared for all of that? Don't worry - we'll get you ready. We understand that going to the Capitol to talk to legislators can be kind of intimidating, but it's a lot easier if you feel confident in what you're going to say before you go. Most people can identify a problem, but when it comes time to suggest a solution, sometimes folks lock up and shut down. So, we're going to be hosting Info & Training Sessions in the community and online where you can learn how to be a better advocate for yourself. We'll also post tools and resources to our website that you can print off at home and practice before you go.
Remember, we're all in this together. Oklahomans have always relied on one another to survive. We believe that the "Oklahoma Standard" should be a way of life, not just something that happens when there's a traumatic event or natural disaster. That standard - the desire to help our neighbors, a respect for others, a willingness to seek solutions in order to overcome big challenges - should be the basis for our society and for our government. The public is sick of the bickering and partisan politics, which is why we are nonpartisan and why we actively promote transparency and civil discourse between parties. We applaud those (in the community and in the legislature) who actively reach out to those who may see the world differently so that they can learn to see from another perspective. Whether that's across the aisle, across town, or across the state, we must work together to fix this place.
We look forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new people at each event this year. If you've attended LFT events in the past and plan to come again this year, please invite someone to come with you. It could be your friend, your neighbor, your coworker, or that person who posts political rants on Facebook all day. Tell them to put their words into action, just like you're doing. You don't even have to agree on issues or be of the same political party - just get them to come and participate in something bigger than themselves and see what it's like. Heck, bring them to a Capitol Crawl and let's have a beer or share some cheese fries or something. We all want Oklahoma to be better, right? Great, so let's stand on that common ground and work toward solutions together.